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Japan XV win World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2024

Japan XV claim the title off defending champions Fiji Warriors after a 65-15 win over Tonga A in the final round in Apia on Saturday.
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Japan XV have won the World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2024 title following an 11-try, 65-15 win over Tonga A at Apia Park on Saturday.

It was their third straight bonus-point win of the tournament having defeated Manuma Samoa 48-5 and defending champions Fiji Warriors 45-43 in the first two rounds.

While disappointed to lose their grip on the trophy, Fiji Warriors could at least console themselves with second place after a 43-18 victory over Tonga A in their final match.

Coaches from the participating nations' senior test teams were present at the World Rugby-funded tournament, which features predominantly under-23 players as they look to unearth test stars of the future and throughout they witnessed some superb attacking rugby.

JAPAN XV 65-15 TONGA A

Winger Kohaku Ebisawa scored a hat-trick inside the first half an hour as Japan's electric backs put on a show against a Tonga A side who had their moments in another free-flowing game where attack dominated defence.

Full-back Yoshitaka Yazaki scored his fourth try of the tournament to get Japan XV up and running after only two minutes before Ebisawa crossed for the first time after more slick play.

Takaya Motohashi added a third with only 16 minutes gone, followed by two more from Ebisawa who benefitted from the space out wide to finish with ease.

Japan XV had raced into a 31-0 lead but Tonga A showed great resilience to fight back and score three unanswered tries in the final 10 minutes of the half.

Inside-centre Lamipeti To'osavili Havea's powerful run led to him opening their account before number eight Joseph Petelo Tongia crossed from the back of a maul.

A terrible mistake in the back-field then gift-wrapped Tonga A a third try on the stroke of half-time, with winger Latu Akauola the man to pounce on the loose ball.

The momentum continued to be with Tonga A at the start of the second period after they turned around 31-15 in arrears. But once replacement prop Mutsuki Urade burrowed over from a tap-and-go penalty on 55 minutes, there was only ever going to be one winner.

Further tries followed regularly after that with three more players coming off the bench and scoring. Yuta Akihama and Ashai Doei – with a quickfire brace – both made an impact on the scoreboard before Kenji Sato helped himself to a late double to take his tally for the tournament to five from three appearances.

MANUMA SAMOA 18-43 FIJI WARRIORS

Fiji Warriors may have lost the title but they finished their campaign in style with a convincing 43-18 win over hosts Manuma Samoa.

Six different players got on the scoresheet for Fiji Warriors, the first a familiar figure in loose-head and captain John Muller, who added to the brace he scored against Japan XV in round two with only seven minutes on the clock. This came after Afa Moleli had kicked Manuma Samoa into an early lead.

Only two further minutes elapsed before winger Apimeleki Nabolega scored their second and with Pauliasi Korobiau converting, Fiji Warriors led 14-3.

Manuma Samoa hit back through full-back Bitner Tafili and when prop Ivan Fepuleai crashed over, there was only one point in it.

However, Fiji Warriors finished the half strongly with tries from forwards Sakiusa Vosayaco and Isoa Tuwai taking them into a 26-13 half-time lead.

Manuma Samoa scored the first try of the second half through number eight Malaesaili Elato to give the home side hope. But a penalty from Korobiau and Sireli Masiwini's converted try put the game to bed.

Replacement Tuitubou added another try on 63 minutes but there was no further scoring after that point, Seremaia Komailevuka's red card for Fiji Warriors coming far too late to affect the result.

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